PAN AFRICAN PARLIAMENT: SIZE, STRUCTURE & ELECTIONS
As we celebrate the creation of the Pan African Parliament, it is important to keep in mind that its current structure is not satisfactory. We must push for parliamentary reform, so that it is elected by universal suffrage, as soon as possible. The newly elected members of parliment must work to speed up the schedule for increased legislative powers, an increase in the number of representatives, and popular elections.
The legislative Pan African Parliament should be a unicameral parliament and the supreme authority of the African Union. It should have 1080 members elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term under a system of proportional representation with three list categories (AU States list, African Regions list, and an All-Union list). The legislative authority of the African parliament should be unlimited, and the AU president, the Chair of the Assembly of Heads of State, or the AU Commission Chair, cannot veto legislative enactments.
Already the Protocol of the Pan African parliament guarantees that Members of Parliament must have extensive legal immunity and privileges including diplomatic status, salary, work allowance, and when they reach retirement age, a pension.
Election to the African Parliament constitutes a mandate to represent the interests of the African people as a whole and thus, to realize the rule of the people by the people. Elected delegates must carry out this mandate by performing the functions assigned to the African Parliament by: forming a governing majority, appointing the Government and the members of the other constitutional organs, overseeing and scrutinizing the work of the executive and the bureaucracy, bringing constituent grievances to government attention, passing laws, examining and approving the AU economic plan, the AU budget, and the final state accounts; deciding on questions of war and peace; approving the establishment of special administrative regions, and acting as a unifying force in African society. [See Article 3 of Protocol of the Pan African Parliament] & [General Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Organization of African Unity]
The African Parliament should be a permanently functioning body, meaning that it is frequently in session. The Members of the African Parliament must be elected in general, direct, free, equal and secret elections for a period of four years. "General" means that every citizen over the age of 18 has the right to vote; "Direct" means that voters vote for candidates directly - the election of delegates to an electoral college (such as national parliaments or the Assembly of Heads of State) would be undemocratic; "Free" means that voters may not be put under pressure of any kind to vote in a particular way; "Equal" means that each vote carries the same weight with respect to the final composition of the African Parliament; "Secret" means that nobody may know how anybody else has voted, unless voters provide this information themselves.
The Pan African Parliament should have 1080 delegates elected by List Proportional Representation (in 3 categories): 360 members being elected from the Republics & Diaspora Lists (270 members from the AU states, and 90 from the Diaspora states), 360 members from 5 AU Region Lists (i.e., North Africa, West Africa, Eastern Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa), and 360 members from a single All-Union continental list. The African Union should be one nationwide constituency (of 1080 members) for the conversion of votes into seats, with no threshold for representation. The Reserved Seats for special communities should be in addition to the 1080, and should be elected according to different criteria and protocol.
The numbers of Special delegates may vary from time to time, and applying proportional ratios may disqualify them. For example the El Molo community has a population of 80 people only, and may require waiving elections procedures in order for them to have a voice in Parliament. Reserved Seat delegations should be kept to a minimum, and should be selected under different provisions to be decided by the Parliament from time to time, as each community may require unusual considerations. The Reserved Seats should include geographically and socially isolated communities, such as the Disabled, montagnard communities, small nomadic groups, Pygmie communities, Amazighen communities, refugees and IDPS, and African groups whose lands are occupied by colonial powers, such as the Canaries, the Saint Helenas, the Comoros and Chagos Islanders.
The delegates should serve for 5-year renewable terms, with half the parliament elected every two-and-a-half years. The elections should be staggered so that the terms of half the delegates start 2 years and six months into the term of the other half. In the first two years the Parliament would have 540 delegates of whom 180 will be from the Republic/Diaspora Lists, 180 from Regional Lists, and 180 from the All Union list. The mid-term elections for 540 delegates will take place according to the same arrangements.
The system will ensure stability and continuity, as political parties have to account to the electorate every two years. In light of the fact that the constituent states, the communities and the municipalities have electoral systems and policy making organs, the addition of an African Parliament elected through PR will help to increase democratic accountability in many important ways. The PR electoral system will enable voters to choose between candidates as well as parties.
Internal party elections may serve to legitimate party leadership, train party workers in the skills of political competition, and create channels of upward mobility that reward their most capable members. But the internal party politics and organization should be left up to the parties, and parliament should only generate broad guidelines for managing party affairs. There should not be any educational conditions, nor superflous & discriminatory competency tests, required in order for people to qualify to represent their communities in the African Parliament. However, high-level public officials in government bureaucracies should resign before taking up seats in parliament.
To secure and promote local advocacy by MPs who are not directly responsible to small constituencies under the list system, the Republics and Regional lists constitute smaller multi-member constituencies in order to maintain a geographical tie between electors and their representatives. The three lists will ensure that there is a variety of MPs to approach when the need arises. Given the purpose of the African Parliament, to secure the unity of Africans, members will seek to win elections votes through maintaining cross-cultural ties and close relations with their own communities. Those who are unable to appeal to multiple communities will lose out in the long run. Communities that seek only to present their interests will still be able to send independent delegates, or to create small parties that will have the power to negotiate for their community interests in the parliament.
The mix of list categories, and the size of Parliament, will ensure that a wide range of interests is represented. A 1080 strong assembly translates into about 350,000 electors per delegate. The African Parliament will be an addition to the regional parliaments (SADC, EAC, ECOWAS), as well as the State, Provincial and Municipal legislatures. In order to make the electoral process more responsive, future reforms should have the option to implement the STV preferential system of elections, rather than by increasing or decreasing the size of parliament. The 1080 figure and the 3 category lists are optimal and are based on current realities of Africa, such as the number of ethnic communities, the political history and cultural traditions of the people, the rate of growth and size of the population, and take into consideration the purpose and goals of the Pan African movement.